For us in Dictaphone Group, Nothing to Declare was undeniably the most challenging of all the work we have done so far. It was a process mixed with emotion, constant discussion, and recurring questions due to the fact that it was a combination of personal journeys and research approaches spanning over an entire country.
After our performances in Beirut, which were as few as two aimed at testing our project, we decided to further develop this piece. This is thanks to the valuable and generous feedback we received from the audience (you can find here are some links to the media coverage).
While performing to a Lebanese audience, we realized that this project is no longer about Arab borders. It rather touches upon a much-needed conversation in Lebanon around the history of trains in Lebanon, public space, land ownership and its uses, mobility, checkpoints, and post-war policies. We hence decided to develop it in ways that mature these existing ideas, before embarking unto any Arab journey.
As public spaces left to abandonment for years, the railway tracks and stations narrate their own defeat. Yet in our constant search for new definitions for “public”, the current uses of these spaces redirected our gaze towards a new horizon; one which opens questions about public domain and informal practice. It is in this direction that we are hoping to develop the research further. How do we approach the issue of the revival of the railway system within a context where communities have built livelihoods and homes? What do the past and current uses of these spaces say about the localities they are situated within?
These questions, along with others about land ownership and social practice will be explored in the course of the coming few months. Along the research, we will be working on producing a publication that tells the story of our journeys, our research findings, as well as the performance script, visuals and maps.
The performance will be then updated and shown again in Lebanese cities.